‘One day without us’

This week the House of Lords will vote the bill giving the UK government the powers to start the Brexit process. Most likely the bill will pass, but amendments to protect the rights of expatriates in the UK and across Europe, previously voted down by the House of Commons, may re-emerge. So no doubt it will be a week of intense lobby, starting with the national day of action ‘One day without us.’

Groups of EU nationals will be in Westminster on Monday 20 Februrary calling on parliament members to secure their rights immediately, rather than waiting the start of the Brexit talks. There are more than three million EU citizens in the UK and both the “leave” and “remain” campaign manifestos contained unconditional guarantees that nothing would change for them after the EU referendum. The action is organised by the3million, New Europeans and UNISON, the public service union.

This is one of the events taking place across the country as part of ‘One day without us,’ an initiative to highlight the economic, cultural and social contribution of migrants to UK society.

‘One day without us’ was inspired by similar protests in the US in 2006 and in Italy in 2010 to celebrate migration and fight proposals to toughen immigration laws.

“Everyone is free to decide how to take part,” said Matt Carr, one of the founders. “Some people may wear badges, post selfies or pictures online, put posters in their windows, hold rallies and events. At 1pm there will be a unifying action linking arms or holding up placards.” As of last Friday, 37 local groups were created and 124 events were confirmed across the country.

“We want to restore the dignity of the word ‘migrant’, which is nearly always used with a negative connotation,” explains Carr. “We cannot accept the hate attacks that followed the EU referendum. We live in dangerous times and a response from society is necessary. No one thinks that a single day can change everything, but it is heartening to see how many people are getting involved and starting to pay attention to politics again.”

One of the actions on the day is organised by the Migration Collective, a group in London set up by Danish-Italian Laura Stahnke, with a British friend of Pakistanis origins and an American in the UK for a decade.  They plan an evening of story-telling, where people are invited to share their experiences of migration (not necessarily as migrants).

“I had never thought of myself as a migrant, until 23 June 2016. Since the EU referendum, I feel my identity has changed. But it is important to look at this rhetheoric beyond the European borders as hate crime has hit much wider communities,” says Laura Stahnke.

Many universities, from Oxford to Edinburgh, Manchester and Reading will join ‘One day without us’ with discussions and events.

Some businesses will be closing for the day.

Tate Britain will hold a special tour to highlight artworks influenced by migrants.

In Swindon, a Spanish tapas bar will invite EU staff to stay home and offer an alternative menu.

Others have decided to take the day off.

Last Thursday US businesses and schools participated in a similar event against Trump’s immigration policies. On Monday 20 February protests are also planned in the UK in opposition of the planned visit of the US President. The parliament will discuss a petition asking to cancel the visit which gathered more than 1.8 million signatures.


Text and photo: Claudia Delpero ©  all rights reserved.

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